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Your Own Honey Cow 

Make] Projects 

Your Own Honey Cow 

Written By: Abe Connally 



Circular saw (1) 

55gal plastic barrel (1) 


makes 2 hives 

Drill (1) 

• 1x2 lumber (nominal). 22' (1) 

Marker (1) 

Standard 1x2 lumber is really 3 AxV/2". 

Tape measured) 
Tinsnips (1) 

2x4 lumber (nominal), 8' lenqths (2) 
It's V/ 2 "x3V 2 " 
1 1 / 2 "x1" lumber. 46' (1) 

This lumber should have true 

dimensions of VA"x1". 

• Tin sheet. 3'x4'(1) 

1 V2" wood screws (20) 

For the 1x2 frames 

2" wood screws (10) 

For the 2x4 leqs 

V2" screws (70) 

For the barrel and tin roof 

Bunaeecord (1) 

Or tie wire 

Thin wood molding, about 45' (1) 

Or n :ring and beeswax 

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Your Own Honey Cow 

Beeswax (1) 

Lemongrass oil (optional) (1) 


Beekeeping is an ancient DIY art, practiced by amateurs and makers for centuries. Anyone 
can produce natural honey at home by making their own hive. Here's how to build a cheap 
and simple beehive called the Honey Cow. 

The Honey Cow is designed to mimic nature. Unlike commercial hives, it doesn't have 
frames, foundations, or excluders. Instead, it just has top bars, allowing the bees to do what 
they'd do in a fallen log: build beautiful, natural combs. Because it's less intrusive to the 
bees, it's easier to make and to manage, so it's a perfect hive for beginners. Once you have 
a hive, you'll want to gather a few extra bits of equipment, like a veil, a smoker, and a bee 
feeder. You can procure bees by capturing a swarm or buying a "package" or nucleus from a 
fellow beekeeper. After one full summer, you'll reap the reward: wonderful, homegrown 

Step 1 — Make the barrel. 

IMfii If 

• Choose a food-grade container to avoid potentially dangerous chemicals. Saw it in half 
lengthwise, making sure there's a bunghole in each half for the bees to enter. 

• Now you've got 2 barrels; you'll use one per hive. 

• Clean your barrel well. You never know what was in it. On one end of the barrel (the end 
that used to be the top) there's a rim of plastic that protrudes. Cut it away. 

• Rub the interior with beeswax. This will remove any foreign smell and make it more 
attractive to a hive. A drop or two of lemongrass oil is good, too. 

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Your Own Honey Cow 

Step 2 — Make the frame. 

• Measure your barrel rim and cut 1 x2 lumber to make a frame that fits around it. For 
example, if your barrel is 36"x24", cut 2 lengths of 37" and 2 lengths of 25" (the extra inch 
allows you to screw one piece into the next). 

• Glue and screw the frame together. Then screw the barrel's rim into the frame. 

Step 3 — Build the legs. 

• Lay a 2x4 flat. Mark one edge 40" from either end (points A and C) and mark the opposite 
edge 36" from either end (points B and D). Cut the board into 3 pieces, along the lines 
between A and B and between C and D. 

• Butt the 2 long pieces together at their pointed ends (A and C) to form an inverted V. Lay 
the short piece across them to form an A, then screw it down. 

• Repeat to make the other leg. 

• Screw a leg to each end of the barrel's frame, and put several V2" screws through the 
barrel into the leg for a good, sturdy fix. 

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Your Own Honey Cow 

Step 4 — Make the top bars. 

• Cut twenty-three 24" lengths of 1 1 /2"x1" lumber. These are the bars to which the bees will 
attach their honeycombs. On each bar, you need to provide a guide so that the bees will 
make straight combs. There are several ways to do this: 

• » Screw a thin piece of molding, 20" long, centered on each top bar so that you leave 2" 
free at each end of the bar. This molding will face downward, into the barrel, when the bar 
rests on the frame. Rub beeswax on the molding. 

• » Or attach twine coated in beeswax, centered on each bar, leaving about 1"-2" free at 
each end. 

• » Or carve a narrow groove, about W wide, into each bar and fill it with molten beeswax. 
Again, leave 1"-2" intact at either end of the top bar. 

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Your Own Honey Cow 

Step 5 — Make the roof. 

• Make a frame of 1 x2 lumber to fit 
around the barrel frame with a W 
gap on all sides. For example, if 
you cut 25" and 37" lengths for the 
barrel frame, now cut 27 1 /2" and 
39 1 /2" lengths for the roof frame. 

• Screw the sheet of tin centered 
onto the roof frame. Bend the 
excess tin down and screw these 
edges to the sides of the frame. 
Using the tinsnips, trim any excess 
hanging below the frame. 

• Secure the roof on top of the barrel 
frame with a bungee cord or with 

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Your Own Honey Cow 

Step 6 — Get some bees. 

• You can buy a "package" of queen 
and bees, but it's much more 
satisfying to capture a swarm. 

• When dealing with bees, you can't 
think of them as individuals. It's the 
hive, as a whole, that is the animal. 
And each year, if conditions are 
right, the hive will reproduce. If 
they've filled the space they inhabit 
and food is abundant, the bees will 
create another queen and the hive 
will split, creating a swarm that will 
leave in search of a new home. 

• The swarm is laden with honey, 
and preoccupied, and consequently 
very docile. If you come across a 
swarm on a branch, you can shake 
the bees off, into a box. Take the 
box to your hive and empty it into 
your Honey Cow. They'll do the 

• In future articles, we'll cover 
accessory and harvesting 
equipment for natural, simple, low- 
cost DIY beekeeping. 

• Wear protection when 
handling swarms, because 
bees can always sting, even when 
they're docile. 


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Your Own Honey Cow 

Step 7 — Resources 

• Tools, accessories, and DIY kits for top-bar hives: 

• Natural beekeeping forum: http://www. biobees .com 

• Author's page: 

• Join a local bee club; they love to help beginners. 

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 25 . 

last generated on 2012-11-02 07:09:31 AM. 

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